The Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Italy

How is intangible cultural heritage protected? It is easy to imagine how to protect the material heritage: a monument, a physical place, if it is in ruins, must be restored, distance measures must be placed so that the public does not ruin it too much … How is intangible cultural heritage instead protected?

In the Italian legal system there is a fundamental protection which is linked to article 9 of the Constitution which protects the landscape. From there the Constitutional Court also derived the protection of the cultural heritage and the intangible cultural heritage. However, the Code of Cultural Heritage, with a very particular rule unique of its kind contained in article 7 bis, provides for the protection of intangible cultural heritage only in its material dimension. This means that for the Italian legal system the intangible cultural heritage is worthy of protection only in its material dimension.

The Sicilian puppet theater was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity a few years ago: according to the Italian legal system, the puppet, the marionette, must be protected, but not the oral tradition that makes that puppet live. The same applies to the Mediterranean Diet: there is no univocal legal protection for the Mediterranean Diet, however the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies for some years has undertaken an action to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage linked to the Mediterranean Diet, launching, among the other things, this program aimed at drawing up a Charter of Values ​​of the Mediterranean Diet and creating a network of communities of the Mediterranean Diet which, together with the community of Cilento, Pollica, the emblematic Italian community, can create a protection network to safeguard this intangible cultural heritage. Therefore there are no rules.

At the regional level there are the regional law of Campania and the regional law of Calabria which protect the cultural heritage linked to the Mediterranean Diet, however it is not a regional but a state competence. There are several bills on the matter, but none have been approved at the moment. So how do you protect the Mediterranean Diet?

First of all by handing down this unique lifestyle that UNESCO has recognized as a world heritage site to their children, grandchildren and friends. A lifestyle based not so much on what we eat but based on how we eat it, on being together, on perceiving the moment of the meal as a moment of comparison, growth, conviviality, on the slowness of the meal time: these are the values ​​of the UNESCO Mediterranean Diet and this is the best way to protect the Mediterranean Diet.